McDowell: McIlroy dynamic changed
Graeme McDowell admits Rory McIlroy's status as the biggest name in golf means their Ryder Cup relationship has changed forever.
McIlroy and McDowell have been regular partners in team events since 2009, winning three of their four matches in the Seve Trophy and also representing Ireland in the World Cup that year and in 2011.
The Northern Irish duo have also played six times together in the Ryder Cup, including the very first match at Medinah two years ago, but with a record of t wo wins, three losses and one half, European captain Paul McGinley said they were not a formidable pairing "written in stone".
And although McDowell reiterated that the court case involving McIlroy and his former management company - which McDowell is leaving under far friendlier terms at the end of the year - had made their relationship stronger, he conceded things had changed on the course.
"Our personal issues have been well documented the last couple years and I believe that we've both come out of the other end of that probably better friends than we were going into it," McDowell told his pre-event press conference on Tuesday. "So our personal issues are not a problem this weekend, that's a fact.
"I think tactically, Rory and I's golf dynamic has changed significantly from the first time we ever played together back in 2009 at the Seve Trophy, when perhaps the older brother/younger brother leadership role that maybe I had with him, that's changed.
"He's the world's number one player. He's a four-time major champion (winning the Open and US PGA this year). The dynamic between him and I is changed forever. He would now be the leader of the two of us and perhaps the dynamic doesn't work as well as it did in the past.
"Perhaps I'm the kind of guy that needs that leadership role a little bit, who needs to feel like he is on at least on a level with the guy he's playing with.
"I've spoken to McGinley about this as well because he felt like himself and (Padraig) Harrington were the same way. They gelled well as a partnership in their early days, but when Harrington became the star (winning three major titles), the dynamic changed from a tactical point of view. It just didn't work so well anymore. So I kind of feel that's kind of the way Rory and I are viewing this week."
McDowell, who was succeeded as US Open champion by McIlroy in 2011, added: "I'll be the first to admit it. At Medinah a couple of years ago, I found the better ball format very difficult with him because he likes to go first, I let him at it, and I kind of come second.
"He's standing there beating it 350 (yards) down the middle and I put my tee in the ground thinking there's not really a lot of point in me hitting this tee shot. I find myself throwing myself at it and literally it didn't help my game much at Medinah playing better-ball with him."
McIlroy and McDowell have taken half a point from two fourball matches in the Ryder Cup, with two wins and two defeats in foursomes.
"Foursomes I think is different. I think we could still play foursomes really well together," McDowell added. "I love playing off his tee shot, as anyone would, 350 down the middle works everywhere, every week, as he's shown that lately.
"I would really embrace the opportunity to play perhaps foursomes with Rory at some point this weekend. We are both up for it. And like Paul says, though, he feels like I could be best used somewhere else and Rory certainly can play with anyone. We'll certainly do what's best for the team."
McIlroy and McDowell were kept apart for the first official practice session on Tuesday, with McIlroy alongside Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer while McDowell paired with Victor Dubuisson and Henrik Stenson.
It looks increasingly likely that McDowell will partner Dubuisson in the fourballs, with McIlroy and Garcia another possible combination.